Thoughts and quotes about the difficulty of writing well

I am a writer.  I write thrillers, ReWire and ReKill are the first two thrillers in what’s turing out to be a pretty good series.  I write on leadership, management, project management, sales, health and fitness.  I write on what can be called for lack of a better word, a ‘libertarian’ view of things in the news.

And I write on writing. Quotes on writing, thinking about the writing process, and thinking about what to write about, what will carry weight and still entertain and hopefully enlighten are important to me.  They help me work.  And writing is work.

One of my favorite quotes on writing goes this.

Hard writing makes easy reading. 

Wallace Stegner

The concept works for strength training as well.  If you don’t push your body, bring muscles to failure on occasion, you don’t get an increase in strength-you just stay where you are.  As a writer I push my self to failure sometimes.  I will write myself into a corner and get stuck-failure.

Eventually I will find a way out of the corner.  Sometimes a bit of my writing,  hundreds, and sometimes even thousands of words, will seem wasted.  But these words aren’t wasted.  You have to try different approaches to make your story come alive.  It’s just like failing to hit a new max on a lift in the gym.  Sometimes you have to fail so that you do a better job resting or  sleeping or dialing in your diet.  In order to grow you need to change it up.

Lord Byron also said something writing being hard, at least good writing.  He said,  in a poem.

Oh that I had the art of easy writing
What should be easy reading!

So, if you are doing anything worthwhile, especially if your goal is to make it easy for others to read your words, simply accept that it will be hard work.  Hard work is okay.  It’s okay in the gym, at your laptop as you write, on the job, and in a relationship.

What do you do when the writing gets hard?  I like to take joy in the challenges of the craft.  I ask myself questions.  When I question myself I get the courage and energy to carry on with the story.  I ask myself questions like the ones below.

What it will it take to make sure that the reader doesn’t have to suspend belief too often?

How can I make make sure the bad guys aren’t  caricatures?  It’s easy to paint bad guys as all bad, but most of them weren’t bad seed.  They were made bad.

Can I make the bad guys bad and show what made them the way they are without giving them permission to do they bad things they do?

Can I create sympathy, a little sympathy for the bad guy’s plight, while still showing that he or she took turn a wrong turn morally?

Can I do this without slowing the story with preaching?

Can I show it and not tell it?

Can I make the good guys good enough to be heroic and still have human foibles and weaknesses just like the rest of us?

My advice to you as you put pencil to paper

If you want to be a writer and not a faker 

Is to know that first draft will never pass 

and that good writing will always be a large pain in the ass

John Cameron

Yes,  you can quote me

 

 

 

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ReWire a Biotech Thriller by John Cameron Chapter 25

Chapter 25

 

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Jack crawled around his sleepless bed that night, tastes, smells and textures of Lee dancing in his head.  He slept with a pillow under his knees, because of his back.  He finally fell asleep around three.  Too few hours after that his inflamed sciatic nerve woke him twanging like a guitar string.  After fifteen minutes of stretching, he could walk without much of a limp.  All his squirming hadn’t altered Lee’s snoring, much less disturbed her sleep.

His back doctor talked about another operation and his massage therapist said the doc was nuts.  He didn’t want anybody cutting on him again, but some mornings it took him more than his allotted fifteen minutes to be able to walk.  One day, and who knew when, he might wake up unable to move, or in pain he couldn’t deal with.

He visualized himself gathering up all the pain in his back and stuffing it in a sack.  Then he put the sack in an imaginary metal box, closed the lid and went to work.  All of the stocks on their list had heavier volume than normal, even the controls.  No one was shorting any of them more than usual except Genotopian.  Short activity on Genotopian was double normal.

He searched the web under the stock name, the genetic engineering sector, and all of Genotopian’s major executives.  Earnings reports had come out three weeks before and were right on track.  The company was headquartered in Austin, Texas.  Like many such companies much of their research staff worked out of Palo Alto.  The president, Ayadih Singh, had flown in to take his senior science staff on a wilderness adventure.  Jack imagined Outward Bound with pocket protectors.  Then his buzzing phone pulled him out of his daydream.

It was Seiji Hiromatsu returning his call.  “Action Jackson, jumped out of any perfectly good airplanes lately?”

Hero had been a Marine Corps platoon leader about the same time Jack had been fomenting Kurdish revolt.  Hero never missed a chance to take a shot at his old profession.

“No Hero, I quit jumping when they quit paying me. Thought about charging any machine gun nests lately?”  He replied without much wit, blaming his weak answer on lack of sleep.

Hero laughed and said.  “No, but if the market stays this choppy, I might reconsider.”

Hero was head of research in Tokyo for one of the major investment banking houses.  He was fourth generation American and didn’t fit in Japan.  They promised him Zurich next if he’d stick out it out for his three-year assignment.

“And, you called because…?” he asked, getting down to business.

“Do you know anything about problems at Viral Countermeasures?”

Hero said, “I’ve haven’t heard a damn thing.  Do you want me to check it out for you?”

“Yep.”  He had just used his buddy Hero as part of their little charade.  Jack wanted to ask him more because if anyone would know about genetic stocks, it would be Seiji, but he didn’t want to talk to Seiji over the unsecured line until he’d clued him in on his part of the disinformation campaign.

“And, I need to confirm some other stuff, but I’m late for a meeting.  I’ll call tomorrow evening, okay?”

Hero said bye, sounding confused and a little pissed off.  Jack walked down the stairs instead of taking the elevator, going as slow as he could, taking his weight in his calves first. By the time he’d walked to DealMaker the pain in his back had dropped to the level of a compound fracture.  It took fifteen minutes to get through to Hero. The error message said something about extraordinarily high sunspot activity.

When the assistant put him through Hero opened with, “So what was that bullshit earlier, somebody listening to your calls?”

“They sure are trying to.  I dropped Viral Countermeasures in so I could watch transactions on the stock and maybe figure out who is listening.  Do you know anybody with inside information on ReWire, Inc., ticker symbol RWIR or any other biotech stocks?”

Jack waited a long time for an answer.  He knew Seiji was still there because he could hear Tammy Wynette playing in the background. He could picture his friend sitting in a corner office, snakeskin cowboy boots up on the desk, a good Cuban cigar clamped in his teeth, enjoying the fact that the Japanese expected senior executives to ignore no-smoking rules.

“Jack, I can’t say I’ve heard anything I could take to the bank, more like rumors about gossip that might possibly be true.  I’m going to tell you what I heard and I’m warning you, right up front, to be like Casper the Friendly on this.  If it ever gets out I told you, my fat little butt’s going to be in a sling.  What I heard was this:  A religious organization, headquartered in Asia, name unknown, found a way to get good inside information on a number of genetic engineering companies.  This church/cult/whatever was making a small fortune with said information.  Rumor had it said church was politically connected in the land of the rising sun and in the home of the brave.”

Jack waited a while before asking, “Okay, Hero, what’s the gag?”

Hero sighed and said, “Good Buddy, all I can tell you is what I heard.  I was out doing the obligatory drinking with the boys and that’s what the drunken fellow said. I don’t know how in the hell you are going to confirm it.  I’m not going to crap on the relationships it’s been next to impossible for me to build here by telling you who told me or anything else, so you are on your own.”

“Thanks partner. Next time you’re in town, come down to the Judo club and I’ll kick your ass again.”

Hero laughed and said, “No way, big boy.  I walked with a hitch in my get-a-long for two weeks after the last time.  But, I’ll take your money on the golf course any old day.”

Seiji agreed to help with the disinformation campaign.  Golf hell! Jack thought if he wanted to take a walk, he would go fishing.  He sat back in the chair watching fog blow in under the Golden Gate.  He had more questions than answers.  He was starting to feel like he didn’t even know what game he was in, much less what the rules were. An hour of staring blankly out the window didn’t do any good.  He used his iPhone to take nice pictures of the board in case he forgot anything.  Then he erased the board and cleaned it so no one from an opposing building could read it.

DVORA AND LEE sat smiling and chatting at the small table in the sitting room.  All of the new cabal’s communications were by handwritten note. Defeat high tech with low tech or no tech.  He handed the two ladies their scripts. They read them quickly.  Lee rolled her eyes and jotted a quick note, showing it first to Dvora and then to him.

“He could always make a living writing bad soap operas.”

The comment almost got a smile from Dvora.  Almost.

“I can’t stand this anymore.  We have to do something.  And, by something I don’t mean pretending like nothing is happening and telling me that everything is going to be okay.  Meghan is in the hospital and you are just sitting here.  How can you just sit here?  Well, I can’t.  I have to at least try.”  With that Dvora slammed the door on the way out.

Lee said, “Wait! Dvora, don’t leave,” a second before the door slammed.

“Is it me or…?”

“No baby.  It’s not you.  Anything new from your people on Viral Countermeasures?”

Nothing yet, but a couple of my sources haven’t checked in yet.”

Why don’t we go out for a while?”  He asked.

“Give me a minute to put my face on.”

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ReWire a Biotech Thriller by John Cameron Final Chapter

Chapter 100

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Sergeant Washington led the way into the room.  His broad body shielded the Captain as effectively as body armor.  Yan had traded his gray slacks and loafers for neatly pressed khakis and deck shoes.  The Sergeant wore 501s and the biggest pair of Dr. Martens Jack had ever seen.  The Sergeant did not take off his left glove.  Lee made small talk as she led them into the sitting room.

“How is your physical therapy coming, Mr. McDonald?” Yan asked, accepting the cup of Prince of Wales tea from Lee with a smile and a nod.

Yan laced the tea with a packet of raw sugar and a good dollop of milk, in the English manner, stirring quietly with well-taught small turns of the spoon.

“Quite well, Captain Yan. And, I will have to insist, since you are in my home and this is a social visit, that you call me Jack.”

“Of course, Jack.”

“And, your physical therapy, Mr. White?”

“Mine is going very well also, and please, call me Bob.”

Yan said, “Please everyone, my first name is Alvin, and if you insist I call you by yours, then you must call me by mine.”

Captain Yan sat in silence and then observed, “Sometimes the simplest things, a walk up or down a hill in the snow, for example, can be what pushes a damaged joint beyond its limits.  I understand, Alice, you are now a Mrs. Congratulations to you both. I’m sure in your case continuing your working relationship will make for a wonderful marriage. It is wonderful when skills are complimentary, don’t you think?”

Everyone sat forward, knowing Yan had come for his pound of flesh.  As they sat forward so did his Sergeant.  Washington seemed to balance on the balls of his feet in fighting stance, while still sitting comfortably in the oyster leather wing chair, which until today had looked oversized.  Sergeant Washington sipped his mineral water, the hint of a gentle smile that was his usual expression still in place.

Captain Yan continued, “I apologize for dropping by without checking, but I was in the area.  You know one of my hobbies is photography. I’m not in your league, Bob, but I do have fun.  I had darkroom work near here and Sergeant Washington was kind enough to drive me.  I thought I would drop off a few pictures, hoping you could all give me constructive input.”

Sergeant Washington reached inside his hunter-green Land’s End Squall Jacket with his gloved left hand and pulled out a brown manila envelope large enough to hold a good thickness of eight-and-one-half-by-eleven papers.  He placed the envelope on top of the black steamer trunk Lee and Jack used as a coffee table.  Bob, Alice, Lee and Jack leaned back.  Jack’s Momma would have said, “The way you-all are trying to shy away from that thing, you’d think it was a snake.”

The Sergeant stood up a fraction of a second ahead of the Captain, who waved Lee back into her chair saying, “No need. The Sergeant and I can find our way out.  Please look over the pictures at your leisure and let me know your thoughts.”

With that Yan bowed slightly to Lee and Alice, and shook hands all around.  The Sergeant, who let him lead the way to the front door, somehow managed to follow Yan out the door without turning his back on the group.

Alice reached for the envelope.  Bob stopped her.  Jack pushed himself up out of the chair, movement easier every day now, and walked to the cleaning cabinet for nitrile gloves.  He handed them around.

The papers in the packet were segregated into two sections.  In the first were pictures and papers relating to the cabal’s battle with the Church of the Seven Sisters.  Most of the pictures were in black and white. The first showed Dvora and Jack running out the back entrance of DealMaker headquarters.  The time and date were marked in the upper left hand corner.  Jack handed the picture to Lee who looked at it and handed it to Bob, who handed it to Alice.  The next picture showed them blundering through the crowds in China Town. The one after that was a clear shot of Dvora and Jack taking the money drop, with the gun and other tools from Bob’s couriers.

The quality of the photos was good.  Not as esthetically pleasing as Bob’s, but technically proficient.  The fifth picture showed Dvora checking into the China Town hotel, the next Dvora leaving on her shopping expedition, the following her shopping, then coming back, arms laden with packages.  It was a pictorial history of their flight.  There were very few gaps.  There were photos of Lee and Jack in their gay couple disguise.  There was a telephoto shot of the two making their dash for the tree line in Tuolumne Meadows, but no photos of them on the trail at all.

There were photos of Bob and Alice on Bob’s land near Ukiah, Bob with his rifle and Alice with the spotting scope. There were two pictures of them poring over targets, as they looked down at Bob’s shot groups.  Later in the series there were pictures of Bob plying his trade and telephotos of the resulting carnage in the compound of the Church of the Seven Sisters.  Near the last were pictures of Alice, with Bob draped over her shoulder in a perfect fireman’s carry, Barrett M107A-1 held in the bag in her left hand balancing the load as she carried Bob, his knee gone, down the hip deep snow covering the mountain trail.

The Captain had included copies of hotel registrations, a transcript of a telephone call Dvora made to her sister that Jack hadn’t known about, and two calls from Lee to Uncle Chin and Sir Ian. There were copies of the autopsy report of the President of Genotopian and his rock-star wife showing no water in their lungs, other than seepage.

Jack sat back his chair, wishing for the chewing tobacco he’d used in the desert and given up so many years ago.  The captain had them, jointly and severally, and with no wiggle room at all.

The second envelope contained telephoto shots of a number of different people, newspaper clippings, photocopies of financial records, and information on title for a number of real estate parcels around the state.  He recognized some of the people in the photos.  One was the state’s newest congressman. Another was a beautiful young actor from the Czech Republic, her eyes so captivating they were insured for $20 million.  She had been spotted traveling with a fast crowd of Russian capitalists: “Mafia” in the US press.

Jack was bored with making money.  Alvin Yan was asking him to do something he wanted to do anyway. He wanted to battle evil in hand-to-hand combat, not third party, through hired guns.  He felt the pressure of time in a way he’d never felt before.

He looked up to see Alice and Bob and Lee waiting.  Bob’s involvement cost him surgery and a murder charge hanging over his head.  Alice’s the same charge, and if he had his way, Lee and he would be together for better or worse till death do them part.  No regrets.  They did what needed to be done and now they were being asked, in a roundabout, but very clear way, to do something similar again.

He looked within himself and found something he didn’t expect to find: excitement. He wanted to get back into the thick of it again, to put it all on the line for something bigger than he was.

“Bob, do you want me to show everyone our insurance now?”

“Yes, Jack, if you wouldn’t mind?”

Jack opened the file, clicked to move the picture on the wall out of the way so they could all see the big flat screen.  The file was literally thousands of pages of documents, pictures, and hours of video and audio, records of GPS tracks of Yan’s and Washington’s movements, and satellite imagery.  There were copies of DNA results that Yan had done through private labs, pictures of Yan paying informants in cash, copies of emails and so much more that organizing it took Bob’s team weeks of work.

Jack sped through the information and ended with the video of Yan and Washington’s recent visit. They had Yan for conspiracy, money laundering, evidence tampering and much more.  He had them for conspiracy, what could be construed as terrorist acts, numerous violations of homeland security acts, perjurious statements made when deposed, and either murder or manslaughter, depending on how the trial went, and a hell of a lot more.  None of anybody’s evidence, well maybe some of Yan’s, was admissible in court.

Jack said, “It looks like mutually assured destruction here.  How many of us believe that Alvin knows we have this kind of file on him?”

Everyone raised hands.

“So at this point, Super Heroes for Justice, or whatever silly name you come up with the next time you are drunk, it’s time to decide.  I propose that we agree to go along for now, as long as we are on the side of right.  Do I hear a second?”

Alice, “I second.”

“Let’s vote.”

Jack leaned forward and reached out, his right hand in a fist, then turned a thumb up.  Lee was first to follow, thumb up too, and then Alice, and last Bob, slowest to act but surest of all, turned his thumb up.  Everyone laughed, surprised at the smiles on each other’s faces.  One day soon they would have important work to do.  Again.

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The End

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ReWire a Biotech Thriller by John Cameron Chapter 99

Chapter 99

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The young congressman stopped his bike ride long enough to buy a throw-away cell phone for cash at the little phone store on Watt Avenue. No one ever recognized him in this part of town, especially covered in sweat, with sunglasses on, and missing his trademark Italian suits and country boy grin.

He peddled back to the bike trail and eventually made his way to the condo downtown.  He hated Sacramento except for his rides along the river.  While he was in the shower the phone took enough of a charge to make the call.  He walked out onto the deck with one of the best views of Sacramento that graft and corruption could buy and made the call.

“It’s me,” his said and quoted the appropriate passage of the scripture.

The voice on the other end of the line was electronically altered.  The voice on the other end owned the young congressman so there was no need for the person to disguise their voice.  “There is a sample in secure cold storage at the Ecolab facility in Vacaville.  Memorize this number. Do not write it down: Zed 678 Hache 41B.  I repeat Zed 678 Hache 41B, Zed 678 Hache 41B. Do you have it?”

The congressman thought to himself, What an arrogant fuck this guy or gal was, but now he knew that he/she was English.  No one else said “Zed” for Z and “hache” for H.  He jotted the number down on the pad he had carried with him out onto the balcony.

“I have it,” he said.

“Good.  We will need that sample.”  With that the voice hung up.  The congressman tore the top sheet off the pad, memorized the number, and burned it in the ashtray while he had one of the three cigars a day he allowed himself.  The congressman didn’t notice the person in the condo across the way with the powerful telescope trained on his balcony.  He also didn’t notice the impression that his writing made on the next sheet of the note pad.

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ReWire a Biotech Thriller by John Cameron Chapter 98

Chapter 98

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Jack thought it was a dream and not a nightmare because he wasn’t making a jump.  He was with his old A-team. They were all alive.  Then he had to go down into the cave.  It wasn’t a cave, but a tunnel.  The Mujahedin dug deep into the bowels of the earth.  He hated tunnels. Closed-in spaces felt like they squeezed and choked.

The cave-in hurt.  It didn’t hurt at first, he guessed because he was unconscious.  Then he did hurt — a lot.  He knew his ribs were busted.  He remembered doing that before somewhere. He felt like he was fighting for every breath and then, when he could breathe, there must have been water in the hole because he choked and gagged.

He tried to open his eyes, but couldn’t see anything.  It wasn’t black, more of a dull red glow, like weak sun through closed eyelids.  He knew they were trying to find him because he could hear people speaking English, American English, off a way in the distance.  The echo in his head made it hard to tell how far away.  He tried to yell, but all he could do was grunt and moan.  It was hot in that tunnel, hot enough to make him sweat.  Then it got real cold and he choked even more.

He shivered. He couldn’t stop shivering.  The A-team would have fun with him shivering like a girl.  He could feel something nibbling and tugging, first around the back of his head, under his scalp, near the base of his skull.  Then he felt something under his left arm and on top of his left shoulder then under his right knee.  Rats in the cave.  He didn’t like the idea of being dinner for rats.

He must be pretty far-gone.  Being dinner for the rats didn’t hurt.  He wondered why the people he could hear talking didn’t keep the rats away from him and then he figured it out.  The Mujahedin had him.  They were feeding him to the rats.  He could feel their little teeth, but it was like they were snagging and pulling on a winter coat he wore, not really pain at all.  It hurt later, though.  Nothing like his back hurt after the mortar attack.  Then it hadn’t mattered how bad his back hurt. Mustafa was bleeding to death, and he had to carry him to the chopper no matter what.

Jack could barely hear through the ringing in his ears, but he knew they were talking about him.

“I thought you said he should be coming out of it.”  Even through the ringing, the voice was familiar.

“He should be, but anesthesia and head injuries make for strange reactions.  With the injuries, pneumonia, exposure, exhaustion…  He should be dead.”

Jack heard a laugh he knew well.  Shouldn’t the son-of-a-bitch at least fake some sympathy?  He opened his eyes to see Captain Yan standing beside him, smiling down.  The smile took years from Alvin’s face, making him look younger than Jack had ever seen him, except in the old news photos. Next to Yan was a man he didn’t recognize.  The man was obviously a Fed. Next to him was the doctor.  The Fed glowered down at him.

“Ah, Mr. McDonald, you have decided to wake from your nap.  Are you feeling well enough to answer a few questions?” asked Captain Yan.

The doctor butted in and said, “I’m Dr. Isaac Ashkenazi.  Can you understand me?” he asked as he shined a light into Jack’s eyes, putting him through the concussion drill.  Jack nodded, which hurt, and followed instructions as the doc put him through a thorough exam.

The doctor said, “Toughness must run in your family.  You are doing much better than you should be, given all that’s happened.  I’ll let Captain Yan fill you in on what has happened, fifteen minutes tops.  If you become stressed in any way, tired, in a greater degree of pain than you are in now, confused, press this button and I will end this visit.  Repeat that back to me in your own words, please?”

Jack’s voice sounded terrible even to him.  His tongue felt rusty and he had to think about each word, but he managed. The doc put the panic button in his hand, making certain he could squeeze hard enough to make it bong.

Captain Yan looked positively jolly as he said, “First news.  Your sister is alive, conscious, and recovering very well, though still with gaps in her memory.  They tell me she should be back to her brilliant old self soon.  Ms. Schacter is also quite well.  Ms. Schacter and your sister are here in San Francisco.  As is Ms. Hong, who is quite impatiently waiting outside.”

Yan’s expression turned grim.  “Do you know that Zelda and Jerome Dalrymple and Margaret Linden-Smith died in the explosion that destroyed your home?”

Jack again nodded, his head still hurting. He heard unfinished business and wanted to ask questions but did not trust himself to speak, not knowing what to ask and what not to ask.

The tall man with the beautifully capped teeth and the breath of someone who needed to floss broke in, “This has gone on quite long enough.  I’m Deputy Director T. Wallace George, of the FBI and I’ll be taking over the interrogation now.  I…” That was as far as he got.

Captain Yan said, “I’m sorry Mr. McDonald, I forgot to introduce the deputy director.  He seems to have forgotten that this is not an interrogation.  We are here simply to have you confirm Ms. Hong’s deposition, as Judge Lionel Jefferson made extremely clear to Theodore earlier today.”

Captain Yan double tapped his iPad and started.  “Mr. McDonald, I do apologize.  We will of course want you to verify all the details later, but if you would simply confirm and tell us of any materially important omissions now, that would be wonderful.  A couple that looked remarkably like you and Ms. Schacter were hired by the renegade priestess of an outlawed sect of the well-respected Church of the Seven Sisters.  These impostors publicly killed Donald O’Hare.  You and Ms. Schacter, unaware we’d mistakenly issued warrants for your arrest, and fearing for you own lives, went into hiding.  Ms. Schacter then returned to be by your sister’s side as Ms. Hong joined you in your attempt to travel to Lundy Canyon, the Church’s North American headquarters, to ask for answers.  Correct so far?” he asked as he paused, looking up from his notes and making very direct eye contact.

Jack croaked, “Yes. Water?” He needed to process.  Yan held a glass of ice water with a flexible straw.  Jack made a production of drinking as he thought.

Yan was spinning and spinning hard. Jack wondered when the bill for the big spin would come due. He knew payment would be due.  He nodded weakly, not having to act, and settled back in his bed, wondering whether he should just punch the button to put a temporary end to the questions.

The Captain skipped some pages, apparently skimming the deposition and only covering the highlights. Yan told of the trip into the Yosemite and the ambush and kidnapping, by the renegade and completely autonomous sect of the Church.  Apparently there was an internal power struggle and, in a last ditch attempt to keep data from falling into the wrong hands, the head of the renegade sect burned their data vault.

This somehow set off a propane explosion that took down the building, injuring Jack again.  Miraculously, Lee had been unharmed.  When Yan got to the part about Lee trying desperately, even in the collapsed rubble, to untangle the cables that had somehow become wrapped around the neck of the priestess, Jack had to close his eyes and turn his head away.  It sounded like the good guys had won the battle, but the war was on hold.  There was no mention of the insider trading conspiracy or plot to suppress antiviral research.  His head must have been bashed pretty good again.  The answer was simple.  If any of the conspiracy had come out the Feds would have to be involved.

Jack pushed the button and the doctor entered the room within seconds.  Saying four words: “Rest please.  Lee first,” required all the energy he had.  The doctor led everyone out of the room and walked Lee back in.  The last thing he remembered was Lee hugging him.  In spite of everything, he knew he fell asleep with a big smile on his face.

 

WHEN JACK AWOKE, Lee sat in the chair next to him, asleep, her cheek resting on the hand without the IV.  He craned his neck until he could see her breath fluffing the lock of hair that had fallen over her mouth. The pressure in his chest slowly let up.  He eased his hand from under her cheek.  Her shiny black hair glowed in the weak sunlight struggling through the sheer curtains. Her hair was shorter than he remembered.

The back of his hand looked like an old man’s: wrinkled, scarred, and bruised.  There were new stitches in his arm.  No one had mentioned those.

He felt Lee’s eyes on him.  She smiled her lopsided smile.  He always teased her, calling it her Elvis smile.

“Hey you, handsome man,” she said, duplicating the waking greeting he hadn’t heard in too long.

“Hey you, beautiful woman,” he responded, running his hand through her hair, wanting her though he could barely move.  She grabbed his hand in both of hers and rubbed the back of it against her cheek, her skin as soft as anything he’d ever felt.

“I am so sorry,” he said.  “I should have never got you involved…”

She stopped him by putting her lips on his.  She pointed to her ear and the wall above his head, pushed herself up on her good leg and whispered into his ear.

“Bob says someone is listening.  I’ll let you apologize more when you feel better.”

He fell asleep smiling again, this time the bad dreams a memory.

 

JACK HAD NEVER been good at the resting part of mending.  He was a doer, a shit-stirring, cage-rattling kind of guy.  He wanted to hurry the shoulder surgery.  His new concierge physician told him to wait until he was well from the pneumonia and aftereffects of the concussion and the rest. He figured being in a hospital might make it harder for the Feds to mess with him.  He wasn’t used to feeling helpless physically and it was terrible, and that wasn’t the worst of it.

The Feds tried an end run by revoking Lee’s visa.  Lionel fixed it.  One of the reporters from the Moon snuck into his room and offered him ten thousand dollars for the exclusive story of “Love Tryst along the Trail.”  He could have used the ten thousand.  All of his US assets were still frozen.  The Feds were having a tough time undoing what they had done in seconds.  His lawyers told him it would probably take a year to get clear title back on everything.

His ‘friends’ in public office were worse than the press.  The congressman from his district, Michael ‘Mick’ O’Rourke, managed to talk his way past the doctor.  The nurse on duty had voted for him.  The nurse almost forgot to write down Jack’s vitals.  At least she checked them.  Mick invited the nurse to his hotel later that evening for input into health care issues from someone in the field.

“Well, Jack, how are you today?” O’Rourke asked, never taking his eyes off the nurse’s butt as she bent over to adjust the bed.  Without waiting for Jack to answer he started his sales pitch.

“You know the Church of the Seven Sisters has been one of the strongest advocates for family values.  I was shocked to hear how this renegade had gone crazy and done so much damage.  My staff and I have done everything we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.  Of course it is very hard to write legislation that would prevent something like this from happening in the future without endangering religious freedoms, but…”

As he droned on, Jack thought about the man’s nickname.  “Mick the Prick.”  If you wanted to get anything done an acceptable bribe was $50K to his PAC and the services of a two thousand-dollar-a-night call girl.  Many of the call girls would only see him once.  He had a tendency to be rough.  And the way he used them, he’d probably be just as happy with a boy.

Eventually Mick left. The nurse was unfortunately unable to make it to the congressman’s room.  She was even more attentive after O’Rourke left, saying, “It must be so exciting to be on a first name basis with the congressman.”

 

JACK WAS USED TO having reserves of energy.  Now he woke up at six so the night nurse could see how he slept, check vital signs, help him pee and hand him off to the day nurse.  He’d breakfast and fall asleep surfing financial news.  He’d wake up again around ten, chat with the doc and fight to stay awake until lunch.  After lunch, a nap for an hour or two.  By the end of the third day he had trouble sleeping.  This was a good sign and they talked about letting him go home.  This presented him with an interesting problem.  He didn’t have one, a home that is.

Where his home had been was now a hole in the ground with memories floating in muddy water.  Jack knew this because he’d watched the video his insurance agent made.  His homeowner’s insurance didn’t cover terrorist acts.  The insurance investigator was sure it was a bomb after he found part of the timer and wiring harness stuck in the big oak tree a hundred yards from Jack’s property line.

This brought the FBI back in and muddied the waters even more.  So Lee and Jack bought an apartment in the City.  On the third day there, after his morning stint with the physical therapist, Meghan and Dvora came to visit.

Jack had talked to Dvora on the phone, keeping his voice neutral. The last time they talked, Dvora handed the phone over to Meghan.  Her voice was the same, yet it was like talking to a different person. He always had trouble keeping up with Meghan, as she flitted from subject to subject, making intuitive leaps and waiting patiently for him to catch up.  During this phone conversation he had to bite his tongue to keep from finishing her sentences.

Dvora pushed Meghan’s wheelchair. A quilt covered his sister’s legs, poking up like sticks, too skinny from lack of use.  Her head was cocked to the left and enough of the red hair had grown back so it might need brushing soon.  It was a darker shade of red than it had been before they’d shaved it and looked like it was growing out straighter.  They’d set her nose perfectly.  Her eyes were the same.

They say eyes are windows to the soul. Her eyes had the loving wisdom of Albert Einstein combined with the shyness of an eleven-year-old girl and the fire of a six-year-old whose parents had never scolded because she asked, “Why?”

They cuddled and blubbered, him up on the bed and she in the wheelchair, before she said, “Well, Jackson, it sounds like I slept through quite an….” she paused looking down and worried at the quilt, before she looked up saying, “…adventure.  Damn it, I hate having to reach for words.”

Meghan smiled, the grin he had known since she was three, and said, “Well, at least now I won’t have to apologize for saying the wrong thing as often.”  While she sat there and smiled they connected like they had from the time she was born, some primeval connection reborn from the effects of nuclear fire on the gene pool.  Or, it was magic.  He didn’t care.  The connection was there and strong and the same.  She might have trouble talking, but her mind was the same.  His sister was back.

Dvora watched them, the old jealousy surfacing again, as she hovered just behind Meghan’s shoulder. Dvora and Meghan had moved back into their place, Meghan insisting.

“I talked to your Lee,” Meghan said.  “I approve.  You’ve finally met one smarter than you.  When she talks about you, her eyes go…soft and she sighs a lot. Unless…unless someone is stupid enough to say something bad about you, then her…jaw gets firm and her…eyes fill with fire.  Don’t screw it up.  Keep this one Jackson,” was the last thing she said before Dvora pushed her out of the room.

Keep this one, Jackson was the last thing Jack thought to himself before he fell asleep. Before that he thought about Meghan helping him work on the brakes on their parent’s car before he left.  She handed him wrenches and asked questions about hydraulics and backup systems on brakes and filed the answers away in that brain of hers.  The next last thing he thought about was telling her before he left that if Pops touched her she was supposed to call his CO and he would come back and take care of things.

He had already beaten Pops senseless once after he tried to whip Meghan with a belt.  Another thing he thought about before he fell asleep was the grim look on his sister’s face when she said.  “Don’t worry about him, Jack.  He won’t hurt me anymore.”

At the time he thought it was a brilliant child’s bravado.  But, he wasn’t so sure when the insurance investigator said the car’s brakes failed.  Jack chose not to think about it. Then when she started having nightmares, he took her to the shrink.  The shrink said that the son-of-bitch had molested Meghan. Jack thought he should have killed the son-of-bitch himself, and would have if he had been around.  And, he thought his little sister had always been kind of scary.

 

THE PLACE LEE found for them was in the Marina district only two blocks from Bob and Alice’s place.  This was a good thing because they had become a foursome.  Bob and he attended physical therapy together. The trip up the side of the mountain in Lundy Canyon had been too much for what was left of Bob’s good knee.  Alice carried him out in a fireman’s carry.  Alice and Bob flew to Sweden and the doctors pulled out cartilage from the good knee.  Then they force fed it clean, young, oxygenated blood, grew the tissue up big and strong, and put it back into both knees.

Bob and Alice stopped in Belize on the way back and got married.  Alice was still peeling with sunburn and Bob was as black as Jack had ever seen him. Alice made Bob practice his smile.  His smile looked like white lights shining out of a tunnel.  Bob sat in the oversized ugly brown recliner Lee had yelled at Jack for buying as they drove past the furniture closeout sale.

Bob’s lead tech finished sweeping the room and waved as she headed out the door.  Bob turned on the white noise generator, checked to make sure the bone colored honeycomb shades were down and asked, “What are we going to do about the bad guys?”

It was a good question.  Jack still didn’t have a good answer.  They’d watched the markets as closely as markets could be watched.  The bad guys weren’t playing the game anymore.  They had taken all the money they could find from the Church, but the group knew there wasn’t any way they had gotten it all.  The cabal didn’t know if they’d scared the Church into permanently giving up the game or just made them keep their heads down for a while.

After a long and completely unproductive silence Lee said, “Wasn’t our goal to stop them?  If that’s the case we achieved success, didn’t we?”

Alice asked, “And what do we do with the money we took from them?”

The phone rang.  The doorman wondered if a Captain Yan and a Sergeant Washington could come up for a visit.

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ReWire a Biotech Thriller by John Cameron Chapter 97

Chapter 97

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The senior congressman knelt in front of the crucifix.  He had knelt for a long time.  The alarm had gone off at almost exactly 4:00 PM Pacific time.  The congressman was prepared for this day. He knew when he decided to lend his considerable support to the Church of the Seven Sisters there was a good chance they would melt down.  This was the problem with fanatics.  Oh, he believed in the same things they believed in, just not to the exclusion of reality.

He knew there would be two roads.  One would take him to the Presidency on the coat tails of the epidemic he helped control.  This road involved draconian solutions; camps, chemical castration, and public hangings of sellers of intravenous drugs.  Another road would have him threatening libel if any accusers said he knew what the Church of the Seven Sisters had planned to do.  He knelt and asked his Lord and savior for guidance. A third road seemed to appear in the distance.

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ReWire a Biotech Thriller by John Cameron Chapter 96

Chapter 96

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Jack listened as the story unfolded like garbage unwrapped under a hot sun.  The Church’s plan started with a chance encounter aligned with a willingness to break rules. The woman’s warped brain told her that the rule of law applied to others and the Church’s needs were so great they were above all rules but their God’s.  They interpreted those rules to fit their mood.  She cultivated the spiritual health of many scientists.  She and her kind used the emotional emptiness of the religious in the genetic engineering industry.  She preyed on their inability to reconcile the reality of their jobs with their faith.  Within five years she had a network of spies throughout the industry.  The money flowed in.

One of the reasons it had been nearly impossible for his team to spot the insider trading was that the Church had individual investors tithe from individual brokerage accounts the Church set up for them.  The Church’s brokers had discretion over their investment decisions. His group had been looking for a few players benefiting from insider information.  The Feds had the same problem with the added complication of being told to look the other way. His team would never have spotted the ruse without the brilliant minds of Alice and Lee working together.

Money was the key, that and the backlash of lunatic fringe, born-again Christians, mostly in the States.  Their unforgiving attitude and hatred toward gays, drug users, and ‘fornicators’ mirrored the Church of the Seven Sisters.  An alliance was born.  At first it was simply insider trading, using knowledge illegally obtained to supply money to the Church’s coffers.  Soon the Church was using its power and money to influence policy.  The turning point from influence peddlers to killers came with the car wreck that should have killed the witch.

Her Grace recovered enough to speak. “I am paralyzed from the neck down. There were numerous operations. One of the pints of blood I needed had not been properly screened.  I was infected with two viruses.  This was a clear sign for us to be more aggressive. Misguided governments spent huge amounts of money on programs to protect sinners from judgment.  Private industry performed even more fearful experiments, some of them showing promise of what you call a cure.  How dare they try to cure God’s will?”

Her Grace’s voice dropped to a whisper.  The doctor hovered and tried to get her to rest.  Her Grace refused and continued. “We put a plan in place to stop this pernicious research.  The government programs were inefficient at best. Worthwhile research was misdirected away from useful areas by simple hints from the politicians controlling funding. Corporations, in their fierce competition to bring profits to their owners, public and private: These were the real threats.  This was what we targeted with the most direct intervention. Equally good, the intervention gave us enough lead time so real money could be made in the stock markets.”

Here she had to rest.  Jack tested his prison again and gave Lee the sign to be ready.

“Things were coming along nicely before you started to meddle.  Even your interference has been only a temporary hindrance, an annoyance at most.”

It had been bad enough when he suspected a conspiracy existed.  He was sickened when he knew enough to feel certain.  Hearing the woman talk about direct intervention, knowing it meant trying to kill his sister and killing others was too much.  He was on his feet wondering if he could make it across the fifty feet that separated him from the woman, before he could stop himself.

He looked over at the bank of clocks on the rough-hewn wall near the ornate weather station.  The simple elegance of the hard woods and brass of the thermometer and barometer made them look quaint next to the mass of electronic equipment. Two forty-seven, still too early.  He looked back to the spider in the center of her web, needing to kill a little more time.

“If you are done with your sick fantasy, can we get on with the transactions?”

Her Grace’s need to pat herself on the back was outweighed by her avarice.  “Very well, do we use the same instructions?”

He explained that each account, at each bank, required a different sequence of instructions. This one required an electronic verification of the voice instructions.  Her geek set up the connection through her computer. Then, using voice commands, she entered the electronic instructions as Jack gave them to her.  The clocks on the walls were brown, nearly the same shade as the log walls. The second hands slightly off, only enough to make time on the west coast a few seconds fast.

BRENDA JOHNSON entered numbers and letters into her computer.  The code they had written was brilliant.  If her new boss — she had already decided to leave the FBI and come to work for him — really wanted to, he could hack half the banks in the world with this stuff.  She and Alice, and damn would she love to meet that woman face-to-face, had been in constant contact.  Today they talked by radio with the sounds of the helicopter in the background.  She knew what she was doing was illegal in about a hundred ways, but it was justice in the best sense of the word.  She knew all their programmers could do what they had asked her to do, and more.  She knew she was being watched and they were testing her loyalty and once she did this there was no way that she could ever give testimony against them.  Not that she would want to.  This was the most fun she had had in years.

“Yes!” she yelled and called Alice.

“I’m in and you are brilliant.”

Alice was breathing very heavily.  “Great.  Follow the instructions and stay calm.  You guys are on your own.  We are going to be very busy for an hour or so.”

THE CLOCKS ON THE WALL REACHED three fifty-nine and ten seconds when an alarm sounded on Her Grace’s computer. The witch squealed and screamed at her voice recognition software.  She ordered the tech over.

Then the bell in the tower rang, followed by the deadly crack of the Barrett sniper rifle.  The bell rang three times, each ring followed by a shot.  There were two more shots but no ringing bell.  Kurt sprinted to guard his evil priestess.

He pulled a Motorola radio out of the right front cargo pocket of his camouflage pants. “Orange this is White, report on gunshots.  Orange this is White, report on gunshots, over.”

The very calm sounds of Bob White’s amplified voice cut through the air. “Release Jack McDonald and Hong Lee and walk out of the building with your hands in the air now!”

“White this is Red.  I can see Orange.  He is down and not moving,” came clearly over the radio.

Kurt reached into the other outside pocket of his camouflage pants and removed a knife in a sheath, clipping the radio to his belt.  Kurt pulled the knife from the utilitarian black nylon scabbard. His Gerber Mark 1 Commando was identical to the one Jack had left behind in camp. With a grim smile, Kurt walked toward Jack.

Then the Barrett spoke again, followed by return fire from rifles close by and then quick retribution from the Barrett.  The unmistakable sound of a man screaming in mortal agony sliced the air.  The sound stopped too quickly. Just then Her Grace screamed again.

HER GRACE WATCHED her world fall apart in front of her nearly blind eyes.  The alarm messages from their accounts streamed in.  Her acolyte grabbed the keyboard.  His hands flew across the keyboard-too late.  The message crawled across the screen.  YOU…HAVE…FAILED…WE…HAVE…ALL… YOUR…MONEY repeated over and over.

Her Grace said the command that would overwrite all the hard drives on all their computers on all their networks with ones and zeros. And then she said the other command.  The one that would send a signal to the sub-basement below the lodge house where all of their records were backed up onto digital storage.

THE THUMP OF the explosion in the basement was strong enough to rattle soot down the chimney onto the fire, nearly extinguishing it.  Kurt hesitated as the dust floated into the room, creating a low-hanging cloud like a mist, torn between the decision to kill Jack and the need to stay close to Her Grace.

Jack watched Lee close her eyes and breathe deeply in and out and his handcuffs clicked open.  She breathed in and out again and there was another click and he was free of his leg irons. Jack grabbed the leg irons and used them to take out the two guards nearest him and ran toward Kurt.  Kurt looked like he had truly seen Jesus right before the scything chain of the shackles took his legs out. Her Grace screamed, her power forgotten.

Kurt rolled, popped up and sprinted toward Her Grace.  Lee stood on the witch’s shoulders, leaning back, pulling the computer power cable even tighter around the witch’s neck.  Kurt sighted, using his left arm as a pointer, drew the Gerber back, and let fly just before Jack crushed his skull with the leg irons.  The force slammed Kurt face down into the floor. He was dead before he hit the ground, but he’d already thrown the knife.

The adrenaline rush slowed the world.  Jack watched the knife leave Kurt’s hand, deadly on its way to kill his beloved.  Something strange and wonderful happened.  The knife’s flight seemed to curve and move to the left.  As Lee pulled Her Grace around as a shield, the path of the knife curved even more and flew straight into Her Grace’s beautiful blue left eye.  He saw his wonderful woman jump to parry a kick from a guard.

He turned toward the door, hearing the crack of Bob’s sniper rifle a second after one of the guards who had the courage to try and make it through fell dead at his feet.

They never did figure out exactly what caused the big explosion.  They knew it was propane gas, but couldn’t figure out how the propane got where it got.  Her Grace had said the fail-safe words that started the fire and explosion in their data vault.  Why and how the gas leaked into the rest of the underground structure was anyone’s guess.  Was it a fault in one of the pipes?  Was it sabotage by one of the acolytes, finally pushed to their limits by the horrors the Church planned?  Was it Lee’s nimble mind in the long four days and nights they thought they held her captive?  Whatever it was, the propane reached the fire in the data vault and the world shook and the building came down on Jack’s head.

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ReWire a Biotech Thriller by John Cameron Chapter 95

Chapter 95

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Her Grace knew she committed the sin of pride.  She didn’t care.  She would pray for forgiveness later.  It was a speech she had given before, many times and many places.  “Should I start at the beginning, nearly four hundred years ago in Kyoto, when we were persecuted as heretics by the government?  Perhaps I should talk of the years in hiding after the original church was burned?  Should I tell the horrors of the years when we were outlawed, the generations of running and hiding?”

Her Grace’s medical monitoring machinery let out a beep.  The doctor hurried to stand by her side.  They waited while Her Grace took oxygen.

“Thirty years ago we were a poor church with less than five thousand members.  My father, having had the misfortune to attend your Stanford’s school of business, was treasurer, and I, his assistant.”  Thinking of her father again gave her pause.  She could not feel anyone’s touch now.  She ached for those feelings.  She missed…  What is wrong with me, she thought as she collected herself?

“I watched as he struggled to turn our meager tithes into money enough to spread the word.  The truths we told of the abominations of drug abuse, fornication, adultery and homosexuality fell on deaf ears. The decayed morals of the day saw these sins as acceptable, some even good, and ‘natural.’ Then he sent us the sign.” Her voice rose in triumph as she paused to catch her breath and take more oxygen.

“The blessing you called an epidemic. The thing you call AIDS.  We prayed for a sign that our savior would cleanse the earth.  We thought he had answered our prayers, but he was simply testing our resolve.  AIDS is being conquered.  But, later we were blessed again, and doubly blessed.  One of our truest believers found God late in life.  He was a genetic engineer who will suffer in purgatory for his abomination, trying to change God’s plan for the world.  He came to our church to pray and confess.”

Again she paused to catch her breath. “This scientist told the story, letting my father know of problems with his company: Poor management decisions and a production process gone wrong.  My father did not see the opportunity.  When I pointed it out to him, he was afraid to act.  My father had fallen prey to the demon of drink, overwhelmed by the pressure of his duties.  I, being the more dutiful of his daughters, not distracted by fashion or dalliances with men, had taken on most of his everyday tasks of investing. I knew this sign was true.”

Her Grace paused to have an acolyte bring her glasses so she could see the sinners more clearly.  She continued, happy to be the object of their anger and hate.  If these sinners looked at her in this way, then she must be right. “I placed the order through a number of brokers, being careful of the Church’s position and the need to avoid the foolish rules of your country’s stock market. Even this long ago a number of our largest benefactors were from your country.  The stock went down twenty-five points, allowing me to cover the short position I had taken.  God had answered our prayers.”

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ReWire a Biotech Thriller by John Cameron Chapter 94

Chapter 94

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Jack counted on them finding one and probably two of his toys. He knew they would spend energy and time looking for more, but he didn’t think they’d find four.  And, he knew what was in the other bundle without being shown. The devices had looked clever and elegant through his fevered eyes in the flickering light of the highway department workshop.  Now they looked like the petulant work of a messy boy; one who’d been found out.  Everything from sloppy solders to the electrical tape wrapped connectors, said amateur.  The weight of the hours in the workshop and on the trail settled.  He remembered every frozen minute of the trip down the creek to plant the bombs and the agony of the trip back.  He let his head slump to his chest.

The paralyzed witch spoke again, “Now I will show you.”

The screen dropped down along the wall in front of the clocks.  He watched the thermal images of his treks in the snow, assembling his tools, entering the compound and all the rest. On film he stumbled like a drunk.

“We knew that you were too clever for such a straightforward assault. It was quite clever to let us find out about the bombs and pretend you were caught trying to plant them.  One of our informants told us about your real plan just hours before you entered the compound.  You did not have a chance. God’s work will not be stopped.  I will tell you of our mission, so you may know of the sin of your fight. But, first, how much do you think the life of this…is worth?” she asked with the pent-up hatred and jealousy of the old and infirm toward the young, fit, and beautiful.

“One million dollars,” Jack said with as much resignation as he could muster.

Her Grace laughed.  The fact that the bitch’s voice, even laughing at him, was surreally beautiful was pissing him off more each time she spoke. “Twenty million,” she said, and then stated Lee’s bloodlines as a member, an important member, of a family worth over a half billion US dollars.  Jack argued her numbers were flawed, inflated by the government of the PRC to extract higher taxes.  She countered, saying the numbers were from audited financial statements.

Jack responded.  “Lee isn’t an important member of the family, such as an oldest son or grandson, but a second-youngest granddaughter.”

They settled on eight million dollars US.

“I will have four million wired now, the rest when I see Ms. Hong live on San Francisco’s Cantonese station tomorrow night,” he said.

The witch laughed, each note a symphony, “I think this is suitable.”

Lee broke in, “I hate to fuck with your plans, bitch.  I’m not leaving without Jack.”

Kurt lunged forward and again the snap of the woman’s voice stopped him short.  The monster calmly and gently regarded Lee, the hatred that had been so openly displayed before now hidden behind something more frightening.

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ReWire a Biotech Thriller by John Cameron Chapter 93

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Chapter 93

 

“Miss Smith” didn’t like this at all. How could she have been so stupid? She had falsified information on a job application, planted illegal listening devices, tapped phones, hacked computers, and reported what she learned to her boss.  The fact that the activity she reported was highly illegal didn’t make her feel any better.

She had waited for her instructions to take action and for the task force to come in.  Nothing happened.  Her boss was sitting on the information.  Or…shit, maybe he wasn’t sitting on it, but passing it on to someone else?

Why hadn’t she seen it?  He was deeply, devoutly, and hypocritically religious.  He went to Mass each morning before work and kept a Bible on his desk in direct violation of government regulations. Shit! Shit!  Shit! There was nothing she could do.  Well, damn it, there was one thing she could do.  It would mean an end to her career and jail time, but she had to do it anyway.

Her phone rang, making her jump.  “This is Jane Smith,” she said as she answered. It was Robert E. Lee White.

In his mellow southern drawl he asked, “Miss Smith, do you think you could come in and see me for a few minutes?”

Could he have found out?  If he had, she was quadruple-screwed.  Something strange happened.  She felt a sense of peace come over her.  She looked at herself in the mirror that was her iPhone and was surprised to find she looked as calm as she felt.  She walked quickly to the boss’s office.

Robert E. Lee White looked exhausted.

“Sit down, please, Miss Smith.”

She sat.  “Mr. White, I have something I have to tell you.  I haven’t been truthful with you.  My name isn’t even Smith.”

Robert E. Lee White smiled.  “Brenda, I know.  We know you tried to hoodwink us.  I hope you know that your boss was using you and none of the information you passed on to him was accurate in any way. And call me Bob, please.”

Brenda Johnson knew she shouldn’t have been surprised.  Something about his demeanor gave her hope.

“I have a helicopter to catch, so I have to be fast.  I’m going to tell you a story and then ask you to help us.”

Brenda listened to the story, as much of it as Bob could tell in five minutes.  She heard about the attempted murder, other murders that had succeeded, sabotage, insider trading, bribery, and dirty government officials, her asshole boss being one of the dirtiest.  She took it in as fast as she could.  The Church of the Seven Sisters was evil incarnate.  She had no doubt Bob was telling her the truth.  While she listened she felt hope.  When he was done telling her, he would have two choices that she could think of.  Kill her or…  She sure hoped there was a second choice.

Bob finished talking and said.  “Here is your choice.  You can come on board and help or we will have you arrested for a whole bunch of crimes.  I won’t ask you to kill anybody.  I simply want you to use your wonderful hacker skills to help us stop these people.  Will you do this?”

“Hell, yes!” she said, forgetting for a moment that he didn’t like cussing one bit.  She had a choice!
 

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